Still Talking: Expressions through colours and emotions

Welcome to Still Talking, episode two. A series where we talk to photographers around the globe to find out what drives their creativity and inspires them to share their work with others. In this episode, we visit Rala Choi, a Seoul-based fine art photographer, who uses his art to explore thoughts, feelings, and human relationships.

Rala Choi's artwork "Sitting Women Turned Back. 2017". Pictured: Three individuals sitting, turned away from the camera.

Hi Rala Choi, so glad you wanted to join our second episode of Still Talking. Could you tell us a little bit about who you are and how you first got into photography?

Hi! I am a photographer from Korea who works in analogue photography. I'd say I started taking pictures when I was in the military in my early 20s. In the military, I worked as a coast guard, and part of my role was taking photos to report accidents. After my time in the military, I began studying photography on my own.

Photography is a mirror of my inner self. I take photos of the things I experience and express my feelings and emotions with colours and characters. I have always been interested in human feelings and mainly in expressing relationships between people. Ultimately, I want my photography to embody contradictory emotions such as loneliness and warmth.

What was your first camera, and what do you shoot with today?

My first camera was an Olympus Camedia c-5050z, which was a prize from when I won a computer skill competition in high school.

Nowadays, I mostly use the Nikon Fm2, and recently I bought Rolleiflex 2.8.

Rala Choi's work "Lovers". Pictured: Two images of a man and woman embracing.

So, how would you describe your art? What influences you?

I would describe my art as a visual expression of our emotions and feelings as we live as human beings. Mostly influenced by relationships between people. 

One thing I have noticed about your photographs is that the subject’s face is often hiding, looking away, or out of frame. Is there a particular reason for this?

When I was in my 20s, I really wanted to talk but remained silent because of a situation I had experienced. At the time, I thought - there must be people in the same situation as me. This led me to post about it on my Instagram to gather people who were interested in this subject to shoot, and they ended up being my models. This is how I started my first artwork, the 'People's Back' series.

My “Her” series is an extension of the 'People's Back' series. There are two elements to it, the first being 'nude' (showing everything), and 'turning back' (showing nothing). I wanted to capture not only the outside of the person but also the inside. I wanted to remove all external elements and express the natural beauty of a person.

How do you think that your images link to society?

Interesting question! I have never thought about how my images link to society. But, I am an individual in society and I belong to a society. So it is probably connected in some way. 

Rala Choi's work "Men & Pleasure". Pictured: A man sitting in a room with a rose covering his face.
To me, colours are like unique personalities with different characteristics
Rala Choi, Fine Art Photographer

Do you have a core memory from creating one of your artworks that you could share with us?

I remember the creation of the 'Men & Pleasure. 2021' series in a unique way because I had always used colour boldly and avoided showing space accurately. However, in this series, I used the sense of space within white, grey and black colours. The work process was so different from what I had done before, and it was very interesting to see the results.

Speaking of colour, how important is it when you photograph something? What meaning do the colours play?

In the case of my portraits, these artworks are composed of only two things: action and colour. The reason is that I think it is the most perfect state to express my thoughts, with nothing more to add or take away.

The role of colour is a very good way to visually express the completeness of the overall work and ambiguous emotional parts, and sometimes it goes beyond that. To me, colours are like unique personalities with different characteristics. Just as there are people who match with each other and people who do not, our colours are the same, too.

Therefore, when using colours, there needs to be a match that goes well with one another; the emotional aspect of the person using the colours is very important.

A canvas of different art work made by Rala Choi.

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